Immersion Nonpareil

October 22, 2012
Back at Kasoa
I had quite a culturally interesting morning today. It involved a slow and large bus. An author. A butt and an armpit.
Had I taken a few more steps to find a tro-tro to take me to Accra/Kaneshie, I would have missed all of the above.  But, since impatience and curiosity won out I boarded an almost empty bus. It was my first time to ride such a bus. It was huge; it was almost as big as the long-distance bus we rode from Kumasi to Accra. Contrary to my assumption, the bus ran at a turtle’s pace. It stopped every minute (I am not exaggerating) on the road to get passengers on board. At first I didn’t notice how slow we were running, until I realized that my hair was almost sticking to my neck. Normally after passing the Kasoa Junction my hair would go with the wind owing to the speed at which the tro-tros and taxis run (fast).  The moment I was hair-aware, I knew for sure that the bus was crawling at 30kph. All other vehicles were speeding past us. I was jealous. This was the part of my trip that I looked forward to the most and I was being denied of it.
After the bus got filled, the man who was previously sitting innocuously on the side of the bus suddenly rose up from his seat. He stood up in front of the bus, just behind the driver’s area and just so proximate to me that one more step to his right and I would have said hello to his crotch. Thankfully, he stood firm where he was. Then with a penetrating voice he starts speaking. He spoke in Twi so I didn’t understand 98% of what he said. I think he might have prayed with the crowd in the beginning because after a pause everyone (with the exception of the lone passenger who didn’t understand Twi) said ‘Amen.’ I thought he was a preacher of some religious persuasion, and had he been I would not have been surprised as I am now well aware that Ghanaians wear their faith on their sleeves and their business names and even toothpastes (one toothpaste was called ‘Pray’).
A breath after the crowd said ‘Amen,’ he turns to his right and gets something from a plastic bag. He gets a bundle of small books. I was able to make out ‘Letters for Primary and Senior High School Students’ as he was pulling out the book from the bag. I did my best to keep a straight and disinterested face, as I did not want to be the subject of marketing discrimination.  I assumed he was the author of these books because later on I heard:
‘What I like and don’t like. What I eat and don’t eat. What I love and what I hate.’
(Ah, he’s selling a biography? was my thought)
Then to confuse me he says,
‘Cat. Dog. Cobra.’
(WHAT?! Where the heck did those animals get plucked from?)
Then later on he makes a smooching sound as he says,
‘Kiss Kiss Hug.’
So what I think is, gathered from all these excerpts, he was the author of a book that teaches primary and senior high school students how to write letters. I still can’t explain the animals though. To my surprise, after he finished talking the crowd started pulling out bills of 1 cedi and 2 cedis. Oh my gawd, they were actually paying for the book.
It didn’t end there. The next thing he started selling was African history book. More legit subject, and although I didn’t hear the end of his discourse I was pretty sure people pulled out some bills from their pockets to reward this author/marketer for his racket. I don’t understand Twi but I bet you if I did who knows if I might have pulled out a bill myself.
Immersed like this in another people’s culture, my senses really perk up and I start taking note of things. Such as how it suddenly got so crowded that now the seats are at a max (3-2-3-2; I was on a seat that could accommodate 3) and now there are people standing. And such as how the butt of the woman standing on my right was grazing my right shoulder—forward backward, inward outward – it all depended on the direction the bus went (go stop, left right). My eyes widened in disbelief when I realized that the ridge I was feeling? It was her butt crack. To add to the incredulity of things was that my left shoulder was likewise rubbing against the sweaty armpit of the person sitting next to me. Until today I didn’t expect that save for the obligatory rectal exams I sometimes do at work, that I would engage in intimacies with another person’s ass, though rather unknowingly.
Incredible. I hate it and I love it.
___
Allegedly Mondays are markers of fresh starts but today utterly felt like an annex to last weekend’s undeniably rich and authentic cultural entanglements, about which I will shortly write.
And as a preview it involves rides of different varieties: goat ride, boat ride and motorbike. And of course, the ubiquitous tro-tro. How we learn to have patience and pack up spontaneity and keep it as our company.

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